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Your Backyard Arboretum

Tawes Garden a living museum of Maryland in miniature

Visit the corner of Rowe Boulevard and Taylor Avenue 30 years ago and you might have been in time for the carnival.
    Visit today, and you step into Maryland in miniature at Helen Avalynne Tawes Garden.
    Already home to our state’s three distinct environments, Tawes Garden is now the arboretum in our back yard.
    Arboretum, as in the National Arboretum on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is a living museum of trees and plants for their own sake and human enjoyment and study.
    To achieve that status, the Friends of Tawes Garden had to prove our neighborhood garden met a whole list of standards, ranging from at least two dozen species of correctly planted trees to plenty of volunteer support. The application took two years; level one approval came just this summer.
    “This winter we’ll be working on level two,” says park manager Jay Myers, who works for Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where Tawes Garden makes its home. The lengthy process to that goal takes moving from paper-based to computerized tracking of plants and trees.
    “Level two is probably where we’ll stay,” Myers says, because Tawes remains first and foremost a public garden.
    In five public acres Tawes reaches from the mountains of Western Maryland through the streamside environment of Central Maryland to the beaches of the Eastern Shore and the Atlantic coast.
    “We’re fortunate that the state is small enough that we can showcase the three different environments that the state has to offer,” Myers says. That’s what makes Tawes different from other local arboretums, the William Paca Garden and Londontowne Historical Gardens. Bet you didn’t know that, either.
    When you walk through Tawes gardens, make note of the Wye Oak growing there. Its size and shape are such that you can’t miss it. It’s a clone from the now-deceased grand champion, which fell in the summer of 2002 at over 400 years old.
    In season in the garden are chrysanthemums, which you’ll find displayed like a mural. It’s a good place for autumn walks and picnics.
    Don’t go expecting to see beautifully colored fall trees, however. “Ours is spotty. Not like New England,” says Myers, who expects the sugar maples to change just about now.
    The garden today is very different from an empty lot enlivened by the annual summer carnival 33 years ago. “When I started here, Myers says, “the ponds were in, there was a small collection of trees and the rest was just grass everywhere. The entire thing has evolved in 33 years.”